Monday, January 25, 2010

What Do You Do With Back Story?

I’m in the midst of editing my novel. Sometimes this seems like a chore and then other times there is something very liberating about taking out whole sections of it. So why did I write these sections in the first place? One reason seems to be that I was telling myself details of the story that others don’t really need to know. It’s called back story. As an author I can write a better story knowing all the details of the character’s life. As a reader you don’t need or even want to know that much, you just want to get on with the action of the here and now.

Can we get on with the action of our lives without bringing our personal back story to bear on our current life situation? You know all that stuff about how your mother spanked you when you were five or how the school bully scarred you for life. The good stuff is also a part of your back story. Do these past experiences matter now? Do they continue to dictate who you are? You can reframe those experiences if need be, but my advice is to cut them out of your story. The good, the bad, the ugly can all go. Sure they reside in your memories, but you don’t live out your memories. Those are just stored away for future reference or some nostalgic moment.

Your memories are about who you were yesterday. Who are you today? What story do you want to tell? Choose your words wisely because they have power. Just look at your life now and then look at what stories you’ve been telling yourself. See? Powerful stuff right?

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